Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993

Part of Opposition Day — [15th Allotted Day] — Sure Start Children’s Centres – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 27th April 2011.

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Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North 8:00 pm, 27th April 2011

I would advise the hon. Gentleman to read an excellent book by J. K. Galbraith called “The World Economy Since the Wars”. He said that wartime investment in American manufacturing transformed the economy, which emerged as the strongest economy in the world.

We could go into those matters at great length; the point is that it is nonsense to try to deflate our way to growth, as has been said by a number of leading economists. Okay, so they happen to be Keynesians rather than monetarists, but do we want to go back to a world of high unemployment and greater inequality, or do we want to go forward to a world of full employment and greater equality? That is the choice. The Government’s proposed strategy, as set out in the document under discussion, will have a devastating effect on our economy and—they may not be prepared for this—will make them detested and massively unpopular. I remind them that, after the second world war, Labour took office with a massive majority as a result of the working people of Britain rejecting what had happened in the 1930s: the recession and the war. We are in danger of going in that direction again, and the end result would be the election of a Labour Government who would have to pick up the pieces of an economy that had been destroyed.

Even PricewaterhouseCoopers—not a noted left-wing organisation—has suggested that, for every job lost in the public sector, one would also be lost in the private sector, as opposed to the private sector picking up where the public sector left off. Much of the demand in the private sector comes from public sector spending and public investment. We have already seen construction levels falling, with the cancellation of many school building programmes. That will create unemployment in the private sector as well as the public sector, and it is conceivable that unemployment could rise by 1 million. If we had 1 million unemployed, in addition to the 2.5 million that we already have, we would be in very serious economic waters. It would be a terrible time, not just for young people but for the whole economy. We would see falling living standards, mass unemployment and a mass political reaction to what was happening.

I had a different view on this matter from those on my own Front Bench, particularly before the election, when I and a number of Labour comrades rejected the idea of cuts altogether. We believe that dealing with the deficit has to be done by generating growth. After the banking crisis, the Labour Government did exactly the right thing. They pushed demand into the economy by printing money, reducing interest rates almost to zero and recapitalising the banks, all of which had to be done. In fact, the Conservative Government, in their first six months, were living on the growth generated by Labour’s policies—[ Interruption. ] That is the reality. Now, Conservative policies are kicking in and we are starting to see the economy go down.

I could go on about this at greater length, but others want to speak and this is a short debate. I am happy to come back and talk about these issues time and again if hon. Members wish me to. Indeed, I am happy to discuss them in private as well as in public. I am convinced that the Government have got this wrong, and that Keynesian economists such as Krugman and Stiglitz have got it right. We need to generate growth through public spending and public investment; we do not need to cut.